Straight Shaft Vs. Bentshaft

i just wanted to c how everyone views the difference between the two since i am on the market for a new paddle. i also wanted to know the pros and cons of using each of the shafts. My biggest question is that id like to know if durability is an issue w/ using a bentshaft. thanx for your responses.


FIRST, canoe paddle or kayak paddle?
For kayaks, there are straight and bent paddles for touring, or whitewater, and they will do the same things, with the main difference being a possible increase in wrist comfort for bent shaft, versus a noticeable increase in weight versus a straight shaft.

For canoes, bent shaft paddles are best for faster boats that like to run straight rather than veer. Bent shaft canoe paddles are much less effective for low bracing and for whitewater maneuvering. They are usually shorter and lighter than straight shaft paddles, and are more efficient for flatwater travel.

My arms are much more durable…
…using a bent shaft…

Oh, and durability need not be an issue
but it depends on the design and care of construction. Werner bent shaft kayak paddles are about as sturdy as their straight shaft paddles, but weigh a little more.

In canoeing, bent shaft paddles are usually built for light weight rather than durability, but they are not fragile. As long as you use them for straight ahead paddling, and do not go hooking rocks hard when paddling through shallows, even superlight bentshafts like the Zaveral are plenty durable.

Kayak - WW - by profile

Straight vs Bent
I believe that the benefits of a bent shaft; wrist injurys etc… are outweighed by proper stroke technique and correct sizing. I find myself sliding the paddle in the normal course of paddling and the cranks inhibit this. I doubt if durability would be a concern should you purchase from a reputable company such as Werner for example.

Are you asking about…
Canoe, or kayak paddles?



Love my bent shaft…
Pro’s less wrist fatigue. Just feels better. lets me use a shorter paddle. Easy to find handplacement

cons. Limits where you place your hands, takes a little getting used to in rolling. Added expense.

I use a bent shaft in WW and Touring. I will not go back to straight

time for joints to adjust?
Did you have any sort of adjustment period when you switched, as far as your joints go?

I recently developed elbow pain on my control side (exacerbated by the fact that I have little kids and pick them up/carry them a lot), so I decided to demo a Werner bent shaft. Arms and elbows felt great with it, and it felt totally natural for playing. But by the end of the day I was getting these scary nerve zings in my fingertips whenever I would plant a duffek or feather the blade at the end of a sweep.

Now granted, I had spent 7 hours the day before with my normal paddle chasing beginner OC carnage, so I was fatigued to start with. But I’m curious if your wrists had to adjust to the different angle. I think the bent shaft would help my elbow, but I’d hate to trade ‘tennis’ elbow for carpal tunnel…

bend shaft not for me
I’ve tried two different model of bend shaft paddles. Both gave me finger join pains. The first dose came after a 10 mile paddle and was really bad. I was really scared like you. It only went away after a whole week! I didn’t even know what caused it! But eventually I traced it to be bend shaft related. I stopped trying them any more. It just doesn’t seem to work for me.

Also, after taking Brent’s forward stroke clinic, I no longer have any wrist/elbow issue with paddling any more. (still have tennis elbow from playing, well, tennis!) So whatever potential “benefit” of the bend shaft also disappeared as well.

I use…
I use a bent shaft paddle for flat-water canoing. I love my paddle and don’t think I’d ever go back to a straight shaft paddle. The only thing is that it takes a little while getting used to a bent shaft paddle if you’ve only used a straight shaft in the past. Some of the strokes must be modified a little bit. For my money on flat-water, bent shaft is the way to go.

Golden rule. I don’t read your profile,
you don’t read mine. Brent just wants to give people heads.

All I know…
Is that the Werner Kalliste bentshaft cured what was hurting me…

and now you will have to pry it out of my cold dead hands… ;-0

A little, I refined my paddling style
than anything, made sure I was getting good rotation out of my torso. This took a lot of strain off of my wrist and elbow. Years ago when I used to throw pottery, I really screwed them up and going bent was the only thing that helped.

Good thing that you demoed it first, they are not the end all be all in paddling…


If your hands are “cold and dead”…
it sure as hell didn’t help you!




– Last Updated: Oct-15-04 11:52 AM EST –

That was maybe a typo...
OLD dead hands?...

How's your wing coming along????

Bent Shaft For Me
I totally concur with Joemess’ comments, especially the part about never going back to straight shaft.

Lendal Crank
I love my Lendal Crank Shaft. I will never go back to straight.

Here’s Greg Barton’s thoughts:
From this month’s Epic Newsletter:

Epic Kayaking Tip of the month-Straight Shaft vs. Bent Shaft Paddles

by Greg Barton

I always look to racers to evaluate new innovations. For them, a fraction of a percentage can make a big difference in their results, so they quickly find what works and what doesn’t.

Bent shaft, or crank shaft, paddles were first used by Richard Fox of Great Britain in winning the 1989 K-1 Slalom World Championships. The following year, a number of sprint kayak racers tried crank shaft wing paddles. Most notable was Martin Hunter, the 1989 K-1 500 meter World Champion from Australia. He finished 3rd in the K-1 500 event at the 1990 World Championships using a bent shaft paddle. He then switched back to a straight shaft paddle the following year. No world class sprint paddlers have used crank shafts since 1991.

Bent shafts are more popular with whitewater paddlers. In 1996, about half of the World’s top Slalom racers used bent shaft paddles, while the other half continued to use straight shafts. That has since changed to about 33% using bent shafts and 67% straight. Bent shafts are very popular with whitewater rodeo competitors - probably making up 75% or more among the top paddlers.

Bent shafts flopped in sprint racing (as well as marathon and open water racing) for the following reasons:

  1. There is no gain in forward speed using bent shafts. While it may put the wrist in a slightly easier gripping position at the start of the stroke, experienced paddlers can accomplish the same reach with a relaxed grip on a straight shaft. Top racers rarely have wrist problems with straight shafts.
  2. The shape of a bent shaft makes it inherently weaker. Therefore a heavier shaft is needed to achieve the same strength.
  3. If you paddle with a feathered paddle (as all top sprint racers do), a bent shaft makes the stroke asymmetrical. While the pushing (top hand) position of the control hand is in a favorable position, the pushing position of the off-control hand must turn in the opposite direction - resulting in a more awkward push on the off control side.
  4. Bent shafts do not allow the paddler to adjust the spacing between the hands - they must hold the paddle only in one place.

    Bent shafts have continued to remain popular with whitewater enthusiasts for the following reasons:

  5. They allow more control over the inclination of the paddle blade - making turning strokes easier.
  6. They give more indication of the blade orientation - making it easier to position the paddle properly in heavy whitewater, when upside down, etc.

    It still remains to be seen if bent shaft paddles are beneficial to touring or sea kayakers. In this light, Epic Kayaks currently does not offer a bent shaft version and has no plans to introduce one. We continue to monitor our customer feedback and we will introduce innovations that work for us as top paddlers.

    In closing, I did use a bent shaft paddle in 1990 and it didn’t work so I never used it again. If something works for Oscar and myself, you, the everyday paddler, will have it as soon as it is physically possible.